St Paul Trois Chateaux: Frenchman Thomas Voeckler takes a lead of nearly two minutes into the third and decisive week of the Tour de France but the leading contenders are not expected to play their hand on the 16th stage on Tuesday.
The stage, a 162.5-km ride to Gap, features only one category-two climb to the Col de Manse with the big guns unlikely to expend too much energy before two gruelling Alpine stages later in the week.
After Monday's rest day, Tuesday's stage spoils are likely to go to the rider who attacks on the Col de Manse and holds on during the tricky descent to La Rochette.
The downhill stretch will evoke memories of where Spain's Joseba Beloki crashed eight years ago, a mishap that Lance Armstrong narrowly avoided as he cut through the field before going on to win the fifth of his record seven titles.
American Armstrong, who quit professional cycling last year after a two-year comeback to the sport, is expected on the race on Tuesday, although no details of his exact whereabouts were given.
Voeckler holds a 1:49 advantage over Luxembourg's Frank Schleck with Australian Cadel Evans third at 2:06 back. Three-time winner Alberto Contador of Spain is in seventh place, four minutes behind Voeckler.
First Published: Tuesday, July 19, 2011, 10:42